Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hips, Hips, Hooray!

I wanted to see
Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934) yesterday on TCM (missed it) just because of the title. Plus the magnificent plot: "shysters convince Thelma Todd to allow them to become salesmen for her beauty supply business, which gives them the opportunity to taste test her flavored lipsticks on a series of beautiful women, while simultaneously trying to outwit the police who are hot on their trail." Plus--look at those pre-Code side-boobs. So fascinating, the film world before Hays.

Anyhow, clearly time for this title to be remade as part of Hollywood's current remake frenzy.

photo Tuesday

pretty pretty

I do not understand...

...how basing hiring decisions on BMI isn't considered job discrimination. Straight-up, sparkling-clear, take-it-to-the-nine-choir-robes-in-DC, precedent-setting, EEOC-you-mofos, job discrimination.

This article is about a woman, Lynae Remondino, who interviewed with Weight Watchers for a training position this month and was told, after she reluctantly gave the WW rep her height and weight, that she was being excused from the interview process. They didn't want her, based on her BMI; not even her doctor-calculated BMI--the one Weight Watchers figured out for her using her height and weight. Over the phone.

Inasmuch as BMI gives you any real information about an individual (people of very average size are considered overweight in BMI-land--Remondino is apparently a size 12), it didn't tell WW anything in this case about whether she could do the job in question. She was applying for a training position, in a field in which she had experience; it told them how she looked. Or so they decided. Which is--which embodies--discrimination. I am guessing WW would say that it doesn't "project the right image" to "inspire staff" if the person in question is fat ("fat"). But does BMI have anything, anything, to do with whether or not somebody can do the job in this case? The kicker: Remondino had lost over 100 pounds (partially) on WW over five years ago and kept it off. For which WW ought to have been down on their knees and thanking god.

In June, this woman, Lisa Bonifas, was fired from her job at a public library in Iowa for refusing to list her weight on her employee badge. The city where she worked began requiring the information based on police/FEMA recommendations about disaster management. In this case the issue was information disclosure, and Iowa is a right-to-work state, which means they can fire for any reason "except discrimination." Which means race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. But not BMI--yet.

Thanks to Marilyn Wann and Mark Athitakis for for the links.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Are fat jokes (ever) okay? I don't know the answer to that question, but thought about it a lot watching (finally! yay Netflix streaming!) the newest Wallace and Gromit film, A Matter of Loaf and Death.

Wallace's love interests--Wendolene, Lady Tottington--are always rather grotesque. Piella Bakewell is not a departure in that sense, but she is new in that she combines both love interest and villain; usually it's one or the other, or both, but in separate forms, threatening the primary Wallace & Gromit relationship. Piella, the former pin-up model for the Bake-O-Lite company, is a serial killer, seeking revenge on the bakers who ruined her career by making her fat, and needs Wallace, now a baker, to complete her "baker's dozen" of victims.

The fat schtick in Loaf and Death is a symptom--or maybe cause--of how this movie isn't as clever as some of the others. Piella is really only about her homicidal monomania and her size (with a bit about her horrid middle-class taste thrown in). That's it: set-ups, character, jokes, plot-points, whatever, are about just an evil fat woman. She meets her justice eaten by an alligator when the balloon she's in can't support her weight ("I'm as light as a feather!"). The last line of the movie is Wallace saying, "Always room for a small one!" as he invites Fluffles, Piella's dog, into the cab of the bread-delivery truck with him and Gromit.

Wallace is always oblivious to the threats in love or hate, but Piella seems without redeeming qualities at all, although I guess we are to pity her at the end for her fury at what baked goods did to her. I didn't find her or the movie that fun or interesting as a result. I could have done with much more focus on the details of W&G's baking business, including more fun Nick Park machines. Also: I would happily watch an entire film about Fluffles! With her adorable trembling knock knees comme Shaun the Sheep. Too cute. Maybe it would be too saccharine, though.

I will say this, having seen Despicable Me recently as well: you can tell animators enjoy depicting large bodies, blowing up contrast between both fat characters and thin, and the extremes within one body (such as the lady tourist, below). You can tell they have fun with it. It seems to me that you see a lot of fat in animated films these days.

It hugs a tricky line, though, the balance between parody and style, especially when filmmakers are set free-er with animation to make the world they want to see. As is usual with a fat character, the depiction of Piella is cool as well as kind of awful. You can do a lot with a fat lady made out of clay.

I'm really looking forward to seeing The Illusionist, the new film from the director who made The Triplets of Belleville, which contains the most dizzying gestures using size I've ever seen in a film--plus the colors in the filmmaker's graphic, strongly 2-D world are so beautiful they make my body temperature go up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Big women mean big Empires"

The following juicy passage is from a book by Edward Edgeworth called The Human German, which was published in England in 1915. Its intent was, seemingly, to humanize British and American perceptions of the German people during the First World War, although with mixed results according to contemporary critics. This passage, from the chapter called "The Human Woman" (woo!), is describing the change in the Teutonic beauty ideal from stout to willowy, with some hints at the coming flapper culture. Please humor my occasional interjection, in brackets.
. . . some women here are worth making graven images of. The North-German is derided as Hausfrau--derided with justice, for domesticity is the cancer of Love [!]. But the Hausfrau is the dominant, not universal, type. Money, travel, Paris fashions, sport have made another type. You may see it in Tauentzienstrasse at five; and on the front page of Lustige Blätter. It is feeble in girlhood; neutral in early youth; high at a later age, best when far advanced in the nine-and-twenties. It is well-dressed, full-bosomed, straight; without grace or ideality; with something trim, acid, and keck [saucy], which pleases men who are tired of domestic adoration; and think that food without sugar would be change after food without sauce.

Till lately these women were unreasonably stout. That was the race-notion of beauty; and the race-notion, say anthropologists, is an exaggeration of the race-type. Men loved fat women; and began their love-letters, "My Thick One" (Meine Dicke!); and women knew it, and advertised themselves in the Frankfurter Zeitung as "A sympathetic, healthy, rotund phenomenon"--"Eine sympatische, gesunde, rundliche Erscheinung"; and in the street foreigners were struck by the general stoutness, or would have been struck had not provident town-planners made the sidewalks wide [hiii-yo!]. Decently fleshed Britons were pitied as consumptive . . . newspapers brimmed over with luxuriant bust advertisements, promising fatness for a crown. The drawings of one advertisement were copied from England, with sense reversed. The slim, but sufficiently rounded lady who in England appeared as regenerated "After" here appeared as miserable "Before"; and the bulbous monstrosity which in England appeared as the terrible "Before" here came out as the regenerated "After." That stage has gone. With Europe’s general thinning, and the orgy of undress, Woman here deliquesces into diaphanous tenuity; and soon she will resemble German beef, which never bears on its brink the smallest ridge of fat.

As usual--for human Germany, like human England, is nervous--the new orgy of thinness caused a fright. Herr Grösser printed the pamphlet Is Our Physique Worse? to show that town-bred females are two inches less round the chest than they were in '85. "Big women," he says, "mean big Empires. The ancient Germanic mothers had vast hips and capacious busts; the older drawings and statues of Germania show the type. Where today are the Germanias? Once Europe used to laugh at our figures and fear our battalions; now our figures, dwindled to British unsubstantiality [sic], are treated with respect; but are our battalions?"
So much more to say here (how prescient is "general thinning and the orgy of undress"?), but I have three things to note (very busy gigglin) at the moment:
  • Did the Frankfurter Zeitung have personal ads in 1915?
  • Where, oh fucking where, can I get a copy of Is Our Physique Worse? Must have.
  • Herr Grösser sounds like a huge perv.
- a sympathetic, healthy, rotund phenomenon

photo Tuesday

Monday, August 23, 2010

whatcha saying there?

This upsetting news story posits, as is often done recently, whether or not obesity in young children can be attributed to abusive parental behaviors. The actual hedline is "Is Childhood Obesity a Sign of Child Abuse?" But the title (in the HTML sense) of the webpage is "Obese Children: Are Their Parents Abusive?"

which has a much different ring or implication, and I wonder if ABC News even knows that they spoke a separate truth there. Or (to be a bit dramatic, but--must be said) if they realize how badly some parents treat their kids because they are fat. The page title tells you so very much about how people see the word "obese"--what they assume about those to whom the word is applicable and those who are responsible for them. Nobody would ever use an adjective in the "obese" spot associated in any way with a lack of choice ("Gay/Autistic/Short Children: Are Their Parents Abusive?") these days and not miss that second meaning--and then change it.

Addendum: I just noticed that the link to the article on Facebook (which was caught my eye in the first place) is yet another variation. It actually originally read: "Are Obese Children Abused Children?" Even more open-ended.


Really sad-mad story via Jezebel about a woman, Michelle Fonville, pictured, who was levied a $5 surcharge on a manicure/pedicure by a nail salon for being fat. You can chop up the story however you like, but by any dispassionate means of measure that's what it was about. The salon owner told the local news:
"...the surcharge was due to costly repairs of broken chairs by overweight customers. She said the chairs have a weight capacity of 200 pounds and cost $2,500 to fix. 'Do you think that’s fair when we take $24 [for manicure and pedicure] and we have to pay $2,500? Is that fair? No.'"
The kicker? Again, from the salon owner:
"I didn't want to argue with her about $5. I wanted to make her pleased with her service . . . I whispered...I said, 'I'm sorry, next time I cannot take you.'"
So, to sum up:
  • The salon owner knew the client's weight from looking at her, and in fact can gauge anyone's weight by sight.
  • Normal business wear-and-tear should be divvied up among clients whom we can be sure caused it, in the proportion they do (best way to be sure? to decide in your own head), which means people who land heavily on chairs or scrape them back across the floor will be asked a $.33 surcharge (for instance); chronic nail-biters or those with crusty heels, $1.22; toilet paper-wasters, $.25; noise-polluters $.75 for each cellphone call over 1 minute; people with unmanageable cuticles, $.44; etc.
  • Salon owner is happy to take fat people's money--has encouraged it--but can no longer put the health of her chairs as she sees it above the money she takes; however, will continue to invite people in for conflict and humiliation in a forward-thinking best practices business model.
  • The best way to please customers with your service is to tell them to never come back again.
  • People over 200 lbs. shouldn't expect nail care--not really.
Got it!

The place where I get my [finger]nails done occasionally has pedicure chairs that wouldn't fit half of my fat ass--so that takes care of this issue for me.

"I actually work it"

"What, do you mean do they think I'm going to be an animal in bed? I'm worse than an animal. I'm an extremist in bed . . . You can say I'm like an ugly fat woman, cos they're the ones they say really try. I'm like one of them, I make an effort. I'm not just a lay on your back, open your legs, look at the time. I actually work it."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

more sleep talkin man

I feel like such a sucker for being such a sucker for this site, not to mention writing about it again, but I am. Suckahhh. I like the silly, imperious fuck-off-ness of the dude's sleep talking, although it adds a a funny element when he rambles in fatty themes too, some of which are collected here for your pleasure:
"My butt cheeks are for squeezing. Go on, take a handful. Take two."

"All I want out of life is ice cream and cuddles. Is it too much to ask? Is it?"

"I need it soft. I'm talkin' marshmallow kind of soft. Lay me down and let me just sink in. That's what I'm talkin' about."

"Whoever invented calories is gonna get their face fucked with ice cream cake."

"If you want me to be honest, then I have to say, your arse makes those jeans look small... Well, you did ask."

"It's cake o'clock! All day long."

"They're not love handles. No. I've got love impact protection barriers."

"Well, so what you call me fat. I'll forget you even existed the next time I see a doughnut."

"I haven't put on weight. Your eyes are fat."

"I'm just a chubby ninja. Able to move between skinny people. Tiptoeing elephant. No one can see me. And then I attack! With ice cream and jelly, with chocolate sprinkles on top. Mmmmm."

"There's only one thing that comes as close as being as fantastic as me, and that's my reflection. All hail the beautiful mirror. Wow."

"Kiss me. Tastes good, doesn't it. Why don't you go back and have a second helping? Be greedy."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

photo Tuesday

Photograph of Heather Graham by David LaChapelle.

Here's what I want

I wish Herve Leger made bandage dresses in large sizes! Right now he makes them in XXS, XS, S, M, and L (sizes 0-12), but think how freakin cool they would be on a much larger body. They would be so neat scaled up with bigger bandage widths and around/shaping larger curves. This idea is as much about the phun physics of it all as it is about the never-ending wish for nice clothes available in large sizes--I just think they'd look cool. Plus, as a person who needs compression-wear 18 hours a day (google lymphedema and compression), I'd love a dress that actually provided the PPI I need in my clothes with some chic bandaging, although I'm not entirely sure how I'd get it on. But still. Phun.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the velvet razor wire

A Montreal nightclub recently got heat for posting an invitation on its Facebook page that read: "NO FAT GIRLS ALLOWED!!!!" A club staffer said it happened because "a friend of the club's partner thought it would be funny to add the line to the event invitation as 'an inside joke' ." Farther down in the article is this alarmingly matter-of-fact line: "Race tends to be more of a factor when it comes to selecting people at the entrance." Remind me to never ever go to this place (Muzique), even though the story doesn't really describe unusual club behavior. Still, though. Blech.

Friday, August 6, 2010

life with Lane Bryant

Last Thursday Lane Bryant posted this on their Twitter feed:

The link was to this t-shirt design (below), by Australian artist and blogger Natalie Perkins, which, it appears, was supposed to leave us all appalled n stuff. The beauty thing about social media, though, is that companies find out right away when they screw up, which LB did in a barrage of Twitter messages and blog posts. The apology on was on their website the next day. Lane Bryant thought they were defending our (the customer's) honor, but they were, as ever--as always--out of it.

That's one big reason LB's mistake tapped into a well of frustration for me: not just because a bumbling company stepped on an independent (and fat-positive) artist, but because this is how Lane Bryant always is. LB has built a business out of finding ways to clothe and take money from the fat woman without ever using the word fat, showing fat women modeling their clothes, or admitting that their customers are fat. I wouldn't expect anything different from their corporate culture, to be honest. But it still was discouraging to see evidence in real time. It's like it wouldn't even occur to them to see the slogan in any way but negatively.

There are a lot of beautiful, supportive people slogging it out as Lane Bryant employees and customers, but there is still for me an element of shame in the LB experience, and it has a lot to do with how the company markets itself. They have long held the idea of not using fat or even particularly plus-size models for their clothes, using as their argument the fact that they sell more clothes that way, because they do--

--women don't really want to know what they look like. So the company holds up an unusually fake mirror that collides with reality and guarantees your inability to choose clothes well when you shop from their catalog, because who the hell knows what their clothing actually looks like on a fat body. Their models are basically the size of people who would never have to shop Lane Bryant--the exact opposite of who is actually in Lane Bryant at any given time, the exact opposite of who has to shop there. So you never see yourself there or on their website--

--and all this in turn continues to drive the world of imagery where fat peeps are not represented in the way and to the extent we do. And because LB makes money this way--people buy more clothes, plus they also buy the wrong clothes (that don't always get returned) without fat models to help make better purchasing choices and to help clothe our bodies as they are right now--the company doesn't take the initiative to change it. It sucks.

I'm thrilled LB got slapped on the wrist. I hope they think twice before ever lazily trafficking in that kind of shame disguised as we-got-yer-back-girl blah-blah again.

- - - - - - - -

Note: I happen to like this simpler (design-wise) version of a similar slogan from Ephemera, if you need a sticker!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

tell us again, Grandma--

Tell us about the days of Print!

I was visiting our friendly locally-owned sex store recently (have you visited yours? they are happy places) and while browsing through their library suddenly remembered being at Good for Her in Toronto sometime in 2001. I was looking at their magazines, and there in the rack to my surprise was a well-thumbed copy of a zine I worked on, Zaftig!. It was a funny feeling, to find something so familiar so far away. It was cool.

Zaftig! Sex for the Well-Rounded, which was the brainchild of Hanne Blank, was published between 1999 and 2001. Hanne was the editor, which meant, among other things, plowing through a bizillion badly-spelled and sometimes hilarious submissions, and I--recruited after the first two issues--did everything else, which meant, among other things, Photoshopping beautiful, very naughty art and agonizing over baseline alignment and diacritical marks. Hanne began Zaftig! with the idea in mind that "no people should be deprived of their own image," and I think we both believed passionately in the worth of what we were doing. Also: our cats were on the masthead.

Unfortunately, the last planned issue of Zaftig! never happened, although we have as a memorial to the experience this amazing piece of cover art by Les Toil, which I conceived as a kind of Russian Constructivist gesture, and I think he succeeded amazingly. I still love this work. I adore our pen-guns.

Zaftig! ultimately helped give birth to two of Hanne's books: Zaftig: Well Rounded Erotica (ed.) and Big Big Love: A Sourcebook on Sex for People of Size and Those Who Love Them. The very good news right now is that Ten Speed Press is going to publish a reworked and embiggened version of Big Big Love, a book for which I think the demand has only grown in the ten years since it was published.

And you can be part of the new Big Big Love by taking Hanne's survey that will help inform the book. The link is here:

The survey is "designed to gather information about the sexual and romantic lives and experiences of people who either identify themselves as fat, who are or have been attracted to fat romantic/sexual partners, or both." So if you fit--tightly or not--into any of these categories, consider taking the time to click through the pages and be part of something important.

Yay books!

invisible oranges show some luv

Coming later in August 2010: a hair band salute to fat girls, titled Whole Lotta Love and put together by C.C. Banana. I don't feel I can really do justice to the planned lineup and metal band reworkings of songs like "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Unskinny Bop," but there is a lot more information on the album's myspace page. And notice the cover art, designed by the ever-fab Les Toil, an homage to William Rimmer and the Led Zeppelin Swan Song label logo.

I've never quite understood the metal/banana/comedy niche that C.C. (real name: A.J.) occupies, but I've met the dude a few times and he is really nice, and, note, really likes the big girls. Take the giant banana seriously.